“Every summer since 1980, Chicago’s beautiful Grant Park on the city’s magnificent lakefront has been home to the world’s largest food festival.”
That festival is known to many as the Taste of Chicago, or just “The Taste” to us locals. It boasts a diverse array of selections, from West African to Latin and everything in between.
To be frank, the Taste is not as magnificent as it used to be in the 90’s and early 00’s, but I still find a reason to head over every year. Sometimes it’s solely for the free concerts at Petrillo Music Shell with some my favorite artists such as Erykah Badu, The Roots, or Frankie Beverly & Maze.
My reason for attending the Taste of Chicago this year, however, was unequivocally food motivated. I wanted to eat, I wanted to judge, and I wanted to do it all day long. I decided to rate everything I ate on a 5 Fork Scale. Here are the results!
3 out of 5 Forks
Churro & Caramel Topped Funnel Cake
My Thoughts: I’m not a huge pastry fan. I got it on impulse and ultimately regretted my decision 3 bites in. The dough was cold, the taste was flat, and the calories were high. For sake of fairness, I will reiterate that I don’t like sweet, doughy things. If you’re a fan of things like donuts, cakes, and cookies, you would probably love Xurro.
Vee Vee’s African Restaurant
4.5 out of 5 Forks
Jerk Chicken & Red Beans and Rice
This might have been my favorite dish at the festival. The balance between the subtle smokiness and bold, but not overpowering spiciness was perfect, which is sometimes hard to come by with jerk seasonings. The rice and beans were tender and flavorful, as well. The only reason they don’t get 5 Forks is because I almost impaled my tongue on all of those damn bones.
La Bomba Restaurant
2 out of 5 Forks
Carne Asada Jibarito
I hate to rate this experience so low. Not only because of my passionate love for jibaritos, but because of my prior pleasant experiences with La Bomba Restaurant. I don’t know what went wrong on this particular day, but I didn’t enjoy a any of it. I had more tomato and lettuce than any other ingredient of the dish. The plantain was extremely greasy and the texture was mushy. The meat was undercooked and chewy like a stick of Winterfresh. I ended up throwing it away before I could finish it.
3 out of 5 forks
Roasted Turkey Leg w/ BBQ Sauce
For the whopping price of 14 tickets (12 tickets are $8.50), I was disappointed with this turkey leg. Not because of quantity – 3 full grown adults could not finish it – but because of quality. There was zero flavor! I seriously doubt that any seasoning was added to the meat at all, and that’s sad *girl from Bella Noche’s voice*. If it wasn’t for the BBQ sauce, you probably could have convinced me that I was eating grass. This is not what Christopher Columbus stole land for, you guys. Use seasonings.
4 out of 5 Forks
Blood Orange Sorbet
Remember when I said I don’t care for sweet pastries? It’s because I prefer my sugar intake frozen and fruity. Gelato, Sorbet, Sherbet (still don’t know the difference between those two), Ice Cream, Popsicles, Fruit Bars, Italian Ice, Shaved Ice, you name it. This little taste of freshness did not disappoint. It was a perfect balance between sweet indulgence and citric tartness, and my only wish is that is lasted longer.
Demera Ethiopian Restaurant
5 out of 5 Forks
Chicken Sambussa w/ Spicy Sauce
I’m no stranger to Demera, or any of the other Ethiopian restaurants in Chicago. I love their food. I’ve tried almost every menu item (and if you’ve ever eaten Ethiopian you know there are like 50+ options), and I’ve never been disappointed. Look, I won’t even waste your time with descriptions, I’ll just say that if you’re ever in Chicago, Demera is definitely worth the visit. The food and service is superb and they serve a house-made honey wine that is To. Die. For.
5 out of 5 Forks
Last but not least, La Mexicana. They offered frozen fruit bars in a variety of flavors – lime, watermelon, mango, and strawberry – and yes, I tried them all. Don’t you judge me! The bars were so refreshing considering it was about 85+ degrees Fahrenheit that day, and they tasted like lying in a hammock near the ocean on a Hawaiian vacation. It was like they literally pureed the fruit, stuck a stick in it, popped it in the freezer, and gave it straight to me. I’d say they are a must for any Chicago summer day.
Have you ever been to the Taste of Chicago?